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Taking a page from rival Apple's playbook, Microsoft said it intends to launch an online store through which customers can purchase and download applications for its forthcoming Windows Phone 7 Series mobile device platform.
Microsoft announced the plan Monday at its MIX10 developer conference in Las Vegas. The company did not provide details on pricing or timing, but it has previously said Windows Phone 7 devices should be on the market in time for the 2010 holiday season.
Microsoft has good reason to focus on the downloadable applications market. Apple has seen more than 100 million downloads from its App Store, and Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster recently estimated that iPhone and iPod downloads will grow to become a $1 billion business as early as next year.
To build critical mass for Windows Phone 7 applications, Microsoft is extending tools -- including its Silverlight multimedia format and XNA games language -- to the new phone environment that developers already use to build apps for the Windows PC and Xbox console platforms.
Windows Phone 7 "was designed to generate incredible opportunities for developers and designers to quickly and easily deliver compelling applications and games," said Joe Belfiore, VP for Windows Phone Program Management and a MIX10 keynote presenter.
Microsoft said developers who design applications or games for Windows Phone 7 will be able to leverage built-in support for cameras, microphones, location-based services, hardware-aided video, accelerometers and more.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled Windows Phone 7 last month at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona.
The software features a start screen that rejects static icons in favor of real-time feeds from the Internet's most popular social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as other applications. It also offers always-on access to e-mail, Xbox games, Bing search, and other tools.
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